Areca palms (Dypsis lutescens) are prized by indoor gardeners for their large, feathery fronds that project dramatically up and out from a central base. These plants’ structural features are so attractive that it can be especially concerning when fronds start to droop. Read on to learn what may be causing your areca palm to droop or wilt and how to fix it.
- Common Reasons Your Areca Palm is Drooping – The Essentials
- About Areca Palms
- Common Reasons Your Areca Palm is Drooping or Wilting
- How to Fix a Drooping Areca Palm
- Drooping Areca Palms FAQs:
- The Final Word
Common Reasons Your Areca Palm is Drooping – The Essentials
Common culprits of drooping areca palms include over or under-watering, inadequate drainage, incorrect light exposure, too-cold temperatures, root-bound plants, and cold drafts. You may also notice wilt or droop due to pest infestation or fungal diseases. An optimal care plan will return your areca palm to vibrant health.
About Areca Palms
Areca palms are rich in symbolism and are also known as yellow butterfly palms or golden cane palms, belong to the Dypsis genus. This genus contains evergreen palms — about 140 species of them, to be exact.
Dypsis is part of the Arecaceae family, which contains more than 180 genera. Within this family are about 2,600 species of trees, climbing plants, and shrubs, all informally called palms.
Most areca plants are grown indoors, and in the landscape are the species D. lutescens. Rarely, though, you may come across a hybrid variety known as the golden triangle palm (D. lutescens x D. decaryi), a cross between areca palm and triangle palm. This hybrid is larger than the species. In suitable climates, these also make excellent potted palm trees for outdoor areas.
Even more rare is D. lutescens ‘Fused Leaf,” a cultivar developed in Thailand. As the name suggests, the fronds of ‘Fused Leaf’ plants have fused pinnae.
D. lutescens is native to the island country of Madagascar. Here, palms grow along riverbanks and in tropical forests. They thrive in dappled sunlight and warm, humid conditions.
Unfortunately, areca palms are endangered in their native habitat. However, they’re cultivated worldwide and are naturalized in warm climates such as Florida, Brazil, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Puerto Rico.
Common Reasons Your Areca Palm is Drooping or Wilting
Lack of Water
If your areca palm looks droopy, start with one of the most common reasons: lack of moisture. Like many plants that come from the tropical rainforest, areca palms prefer evenly moist soil.
If moisture levels get too low in the soil, there’s no water to fill the plant’s cells. Then the palm will start to droop and wilt.
To diagnose, feel the top few inches of soil. If more than the top two inches feel dry, it’s time to water. Pour water slowly around the base of the plant, avoiding the leaves. Continue until the excess runs out of the container’s drainage holes.
If the soil is extremely dry, it may repel water. You may have to repeat the process several times until the soil feels evenly moist.
For more, see our in-depth guide on when and how to water areca palms.
If your areca palm is drooping and a test reveals overly moist soil, your plant may suffer from overwatering. While areca palms do prefer moist soil, too much water prevents cells from taking up the right amount of moisture, air, and nutrients.
This weakens stems and causes drooping and wilting. Solve and prevent the problem by only watering when the top two inches of soil feel dry. Ensure the plant’s container has adequate drain holes.
Lack of Nutrients
When areca palms grow outdoors, leaves and other biomass naturally compost into the soil, providing plants with the necessary nutrients. But when grown in containers, plants must draw nutrients from a limited supply in the soil.
Over time, the soil grows depleted. If your Areca palm looks droopy, it may need nutrients.
During the spring and summer, apply a water-soluble fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium and a lower proportion of phosphorous. Apply less in the fall and none during the winter. Be sure to follow package directions. Don’t over-fertilize, as this may lead to soil salt build-up.
Though areca palms appreciate evenly moist soil, they don’t thrive when they’re overwatered. Sitting in water for extended periods can harm plants; when soil is wet, roots can’t take in the air and nutrients the plant need. This causes wilting and drooping.
If a container doesn’t have adequate drainage, water may build up around the roots. Choose only containers with proper drainage holes.
When plants grow in one container for a long time, they may run out of space for their roots. The roots may start to circle the pot, extend through the drainage holes, poke through the top of soil or create a thick mat.
This is known as being “root bound.” When roots are bound, they can’t take up nutrients, moisture, and air. Solve the problem by repotting in a larger container with fresh soil, very gently loosening the fragile roots.
Root rot or crown rot can affect areca palms that sit in wet soil. When roots stand in water, they essentially drown and suffocate.
Over time, they rot away. The plant’s stem becomes mushy, and it can’t support itself. If left unchecked, the plant will die. Avoid root rot by planting areca palms in containers with adequate drainage holes and avoiding overwatering.
Inappropriate Temperature & Humidity
In their native habitat, areca palms thrive in consistent humidity and warmth. In the home, replicate these conditions by keeping temperatures between 60 and 80 percent. Any colder, and your plant may droop.
You may need to use a humidifier or spray your Areca palm to increase humidity. You may also set it on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Just be sure the container can drain adequately.
Areca palms don’t thrive in temperatures that fall below 60 degrees F for extended periods. Keep your plant away from doors, windows, and places in the room that experience drafts.
This includes vents. If you run A/C in the summer, keep palms away from the registers.
Poor Light Conditions
Areca palms thrive in dappled sunlight. Replicate these conditions in your home by placing them in bright but indirect light. Areca palms exposed to bright direct sunlight will often display signs of yellowing or brown tips on the foliage.
Usually, this type of light is found in an east-facing window or a few feet from a south- or west-facing window. You may place plants in a south- or west-facing window as long as a sheer curtain blunts the exposure.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Areca Palms.
Pests & Diseases
Certain areca palm pests and diseases may cause your palm to droop. Areca palms may be affected by pests that suck sap and juices from plant foliage, such as mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and scale. Cut away affected foliage, clean fronds with insecticide soap or rubbing alcohol, or treat with horticultural oils.
Areca palms may be affected by fungal issues, such as helminthosporium leaf spot or sclerotinia blight. Prevent diseases by ensuring proper drainage and good airflow. Avoid getting moisture on plant foliage when watering.
How to Fix a Drooping Areca Palm
The best way to fix a wilting or drooping areca palm — and keep it from drooping in the first place — is to provide it with optimal growing conditions. This means mimicking the conditions in the plant’s natural habitat, the tropical forests of eastern Madagascar.
In the home, this means:
- Well-draining and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0.
- A properly sized container with adequate drainage holes.
- Bright, indirect light, such as found in an east-facing window, near a south or west-facing window, or in a south or west-facing window that’s covered with a sheer curtain.
- Temperatures that stay between 60 and 80 degrees F year-round.
- Consistent humidity.
- Watering when the top inch or two of soil feels dry.
- Fertilization every other week during the plant’s active growing season, spring through fall.
For more, see our comprehensive Areca Palm plant care guide here.
Drooping Areca Palms FAQs:
What causes an Areca Palm to droop?
Common culprits include over- or under-watering, poor drainage, incorrect light exposure, and pests or diseases. Other causes of droop may be cold temperatures, inadequate humidity or lack of nutrients.
What does an overwatered Areca Palm look like?
An overwatered Areca palm may look droopy and wilted. Over time, the stem loses strength and becomes mushy.
How do I know if my Areca Palm is dying?
A dying areca palm may have yellow, brown, or black leaves. The stem may lose strength and become mushy.
Will droopy Areca Palms recover?
In many cases, a droopy areca palm can recover if the issues such as over- or under-watering, light exposure, temperature, drainage, or humidity are solved. Once a plant has root rot, it can be more difficult to save.
How do you fix a droopy Areca Palm?
Fix a droopy palm by providing it with optimal growing conditions. These include bright indirect light, adequate drainage, watering when two inches of soil are dry, and the right temperature and humidity levels.
The Final Word
Areca palms are relatively low-maintenance plants but may also experience drooping and wilting. Often, these issues are tied to over- or under-watering, inadequate drainage, or other environmental issues that are easy to solve. Try fixing these problems first when you notice a drooping plant. For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of palm trees.
If you’re looking for your next Areca Palm to add to your collection, see our guide to the best plant shops delivering Areca Palms nationwide.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.
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